Whenever Canada geese fly over I stop to watch them. They call to one another and change formation. If they are migrating the flocks can be in the hundreds and flying miles over my head.
But usually I see small flocks flying low. They are local geese flying from someplace close such as the brook running through Greystone to the pond at Watnong Park or the playground at the Borough School. At dusk they'll return to Greystone, like commuters.
All Canada geese look the same so when huge flocks gather in parks or office lawns, one can’t shoot them because they are protected by federal law. Some companies use dogs to scare the geese away, pushing the problem to another office park, or silhouettes of men or dogs on the lawns, the suburban equivalent of a scarecrow that works about as well when the geese realize nothing is moving.
Geese like short grass so they can see predators coming, making manicured lawns or decorative ponds perfect habitats for a population explosion.
There was a lot of screaming in New York City when scores of Canada geese were captured on a pond in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and killed. As they do with the rampant deer herds, these people seem to have a romantic notion of "nature" and prefer blaming mankind and leaving the creatures alone or controlling their numbers with “birth control.”
For geese, that means finding a nest, somehow getting the parents away from it (no easy task - a well-aimed swat of a wing can break your arm and geese also bite) and shaking the eggs to keep them from forming chicks (thus the parents sit on eggs that never hatch).
There aren’t enough people in the world to do this, and that doesn’t get rid of the geese already around eating the grass and leaving behind long, green, cigarette-shaped souvenirs. And then there's always next year.
I am for balance, and more than agree it was man - with his unchecked expansion into hundreds of acres of woods to create suburban sprawl - who created this problem. But leaving hundreds of Canada geese to flock on - and mess up - hiking trails, business “campuses” and “office parks” is extremely unbalanced, not to mention a health hazard.
Every day I see a huge flock of geese on the lawn of the office next to mine. The flock started as four hanging around a decorative pond. Then there were goslings. The neighboring company's lawn crew worked around them and the geese continued to leave their droppings on the grass. When summer ended and the lawn services put their mowers away for the season, the undisturbed geese had no reason to leave. In fact, others joined them. Sometimes they wander onto my employer's property or into the busy street in front.
It hasn't helped that there's been very little snow and unnaturally warm temperatures.
I enjoyed walking the paths between that office and mine but when the geese finished cropping the grass near the pond they moved on. They crossed the footpaths and driveways, leaving their many calling cards. What used to be a long, pleasurable hike became an obstacle course. If I wasn’t shooing 35 geese out of my way I was stepping carefully around droppings everywhere, including bordering public sidewalks. They have no fear of people. I now stick to the concrete parking lots in back.
I do not understand why this company and others that go to a lot of expensive trouble to keep the lawns mowed, fed and watered in summer allow geese to literally make a big mess everywhere when the weather gets cold. Maybe it's because no executives walk on the paths, or those employees who do figure the crap literally comes with the territory. Maybe no one wants to be known as anti-goose.
They shouldn't have created unnaturally manicured expanses of lawns in the first place.
Geese are out of control in recreational parks and fields, too, which means a lot of people are walking or playing in goose droppings. Worse, some people believe it is their civic duty to feed the geese, which only encourages them to stay and make more of a mess.
Canada geese are not the only pests, of course. The populations of a lot of creatures have exploded thanks to man's incursion into what had been untouched lands, usually at the detriment of other species like songbirds. Deer, bears, coyotes - the populations of all have been growing in New Jersey as they take advantage of the conditions we created in the suburbs.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like Canada geese. As I said, watching a very long skein of geese way up and calling as they fly in migration always stops me in my tracks.
But those are migrants and the others are local pests. As my husband likes to say, in the suburbs we call our rats deer and our pigeons Canada geese.
We created this situation, and we have to fix it because there aren't enough natural predators to make a dent in this goose population. A lot of people are as emotionally - some dangerously - against hunting the geese as they are against hunting deer or the bears. But I can't see any other way around the problem.
In the meantime, watch where you walk.